7 real things you can do right now about the catastrophe in Aleppo.

Syrian government troops are attempting to capture the remaining sections of Aleppo, and its citizens are in grave danger.  

Aleppo Residents flee rebel-held areas of the city. Photo by Karam Al-Masri/Getty Images.

The humanitarian disaster, which has been ongoing for months, has gotten far worse in the past few days, with terrified residents, caught between government forces, Russian airstrikes, and rebel forces tweeting desperate pleas for help and final messages to loved ones. Reports of women committing suicide to avoid being raped and civilians being executed by regime forces have begun to filter out of the city.


Meanwhile, the once-thriving region has been reduced to rubble and chaos over the course of the past several months. Russia has announced an end to the military operation, claiming victory, and reports of a cease-fire between government and rebel forces have been issued, but both have yet to be confirmed by the United Nations at the time of this writing. 50,000 civilians are still believed to be in the eastern part of the city.

It's easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed and want to turn away from a story like this. The news is bleak — and likely to get bleaker. But those of us with the good fortune to live in safety have a responsibility to do what we can to help. And there are ways to help.

Most involve donating to organizations that are on the ground in or around Aleppo. We know not everyone has money to spare, but if you can make it work, providing much needed funds to these organizations is the most efficient way to assist at a crucial moment like this.

1. Support the White Helmets.

The White Helmets respond to the aftermath of an airstrike. Photo by Mohamed Al-Bakour/Getty Images.

Led by Raed Al-Saleh, this homegrown search-and-rescue force, which operates in rebel-controlled Syria, including Aleppo, has saved tens of thousands of their countrymen over the course of the conflict — pulling bombing victims out of rubble, raising money for prosthetics, and supporting the families of fallen comrades.

Some critics of the organization argue that the group hides a political mission, which advocates for regime change and policies that have exacerbated the violence. But right now, they're saving lives, and in a crisis moment, that matters more.

You can donate on their website.

2. Support Doctors Without Borders.

The aftermath of the destruction of a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in Syria. Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/Getty Images.

The global, nonpartisan medical relief organization is still active on the ground across the country, providing local medical facilities, which have been decimated by the war, with equipment, supplies, and, where possible, personnel.

You can give them money here.

3. Support the Syrian American Medical Society.

Medical professionals protest near the United Nations. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The group runs dozens of medical operations in Syria and the countries that have taken in the largest share of refugees from the war, treating nearly 3 million Syrians in 2015.

You can sign up to volunteer or donate here.

4. Support the International Rescue Committee.

The IRC supports people who flee war and conflict in countries around the world, including Syrian refugees.

Here's how to support them in turn.

5. Support Save the Children.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images.

Save the Children works with internally displaced and refugee children and families affected by the conflict.

You can read more about what they're doing and pledge support here.

6. Go to a protest, or start one.

Londoners and residents of Istanbul are taking to the streets to demand action from local officials on the growing crisis.

If you live in those cities, join them to demand action from local officials. Or organize a protest effort where you are.

7. Support refugees.

Aleppo residents flee the rebel-held section of town. hoto by Karam Al-Masri/Getty Images.

There are millions of them all over the world. The terrorization and dismemberment of Aleppo? This is what they're fleeing. This exactly.

Since refugees from the conflict started flooding into the West in 2011, their fate has become a political football, exploited by candidates and causes in countries across Europe and North America to stoke fear and win elections. This should stop. The most compassionate thing we can do is to put aside our fears of terror and the unfamiliar and give them a chance to rebuild their lives among us. And to give those who still suffer on the ground hope that there's a better life available to them, should they manage to escape.

You can donate to the UN Refugee Agency. Or Questscope, which provides education and counseling resources to refugees living in Jordan. Or the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which helps shepherd refugees making the perilous sea-crossing into Europe to safety.

More importantly, you can call your senator or congressperson and tell them that you won't support them if they don't support expanding the U.S.'s Refugee Admissions program to admit more than the woefully inadequate 10,000 Syrians we resettled in 2016.

What's happening in Aleppo isn't just a humanitarian tragedy, it's a moral crisis. It's a time to put aside our fears and apathy, to get real, and to act as best and as effectively as each of us can.

If we don't, we'll never stop asking ourselves why we didn't.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."